Quebrada Pro Wrestling, Puroresu, & Mixed Martial Arts Reviews by Mike Lorefice

1/6/01 taped 12/23/00 Saitama Super Arena (26,882 sellout)

This was one of the better PRIDE's because, while there was one terrible fight, the other six all at least had their moments. There were no great fights, as always, but the first four were at least good and the last two were at least decent (round 1 of Kerr vs. Igor sounded like it may have been soporific, but the 15 minutes they showed were decent).

Guy Mezger vs. Alexander Otsuka

This is probably Guy's most impressive performance on a major league show. Otsuka is not a great fighter or even close, but he's always been a pain because he keeps coming back for more. Today, he had no offense and Guy took him out within two minutes. That says more when you consider Otsuka went the distance with both Vovchanchyn and Renzo, and it was an accomplishment when Ken Shamrock put him out after hammering him for almost a whole round. Announcer Steven Quadros claimed that both guys have been in front of huge crowds their whole careers, which is hilarious when you consider New Japan drew like 10,000 more fans for the 4/10/99 show that Otsuka had a nondrawing match on than Battlarts drew during that entire year. Anyway, Otsuka didn't want to strike with Guy, but he had little choice because he couldn't take Guy down. Guy's strikes were crisp, and he put together some nice combinations. He knocked Otsuka down with a right hook at 1:45 then got right into the side mount and flurried until the ref stopped it. Although it was one-sided, it was a very exciting short fight. 1R 1:54

Ricardo Almeida vs. Akira Shoji

Like Otsuka, Shoji has great heart and a deep tank, but he's undersized and doesn't have the skill to make up for it against PRIDE level of fighters. This match had explosive flurries of wild striking, hardly any of which connected but the few that did left a mark. In spite of the haymakers, the wildest thing in the match was actually at the opening bell when Shoji ran at Almeida and tried a jumping knee. I'll raise my hand in the air and "ooh" if that obvious attack ever works for anyone in a shoot, but until then I just have to wonder what this guy is thinking, especially someone of Shoji's speed.

The ground portion was rather dull because Almeida didn't do much beyond try to get full mount. Shoji did a lot more to force action, but that was only in standup since he doesn't have an active guard. For the most part, that just resulted in him taking more punishment than his opponent, but at least it made the fight interesting. Actually, the first round was pretty even. Almeida was in control most of the time, but otherwise it was one good Almeida low kick against 1 good Shoji punch.

Round 2 was much more exciting because Almeida got his striking going. He kneed Shoji low, which drew a yellow card. He bloodied, if not broke, Shoji's nose with a left straight, and it was one of those nasty bleeds that just keeps coming out and staining everything. Near the end of the fight, Shoji came in with a knee, but Almeida punched him in the face. Shoji went down, but only because he lost his balance when Almeida avoided the knee. It looked like Almeida was going to ride out the last few minutes in Shoji's guard, but he got side mount and tried to turn Shoji over. Shoji took a few punches, but got to his feet, so Almeida decided to pressure him and soon caught Shoji with a knee to the head. Shoji tried another knee, but Almeida caught it and took him down with an impressive single leg. As was the case the whole fight, Almeida didn't try any submissions and never really got his striking going on the ground. He'd controlled the whole fight and looked impressive in standup during the second round, so by this point it was just a matter of not making a mistake before he won the decision. Shoji lost standup and had no offense on the mat, so it was an easy decision victory for the Renzo Gracie protégé Almeida. 2R

Heath Herring vs. Enson Inoue

Enson always has an entertaining fight and does some good things, but these days he no longer seems to be able to do enough of them or the one great thing to get the victory. He came out swinging and knocked Herring down with a left hook (really a slip, but since you generally get over/on top of your opponent once he's down and keep punching him, there's little difference) then leaned over him and threw punches down. Herring was able to take Enson down though and apply an udegatame/keylock. Enson isn't going to submit to something like that, but Herring had much more success the next time he took Enson down because Enson's open guard gives you a lot of room to strike. Enson, of course, went for a submission from the bottom because that opportunity is the whole point of him allowing enough space and leverage for his opponent to beat away on his stomach and ribs. The thing is, by now everyone knows exactly what Enson is going to do and has trained against getting suckered into a loss. When Enson went for his triangle hold, Herring took the side mount and started kneeing him in the head. Enson's arm (the one on the side Herring was on) was trapped under Herring, so he couldn't bring that up to protect his head. He also wasn't doing anything to improve his position, so the ref stopped it after the 5th unprotected knee. Enson wasn't happy, but it was a good stoppage. Enson's fights have the most exciting ground and pound (of him) from a spectator standpoint, but it just seems like everyone he fights is too prepared and advanced for his submissions. They know to take what he's going to give them, and that alone is enough to win a decision, so there's no need to give him a chance by getting too overzealous. 1R 4:31

Vanderlei Silva vs. Dan Henderson

Silva's has not been the most consistent fighter, but he may have improved to the point that he can become one of them. With his wrestling background and previous MMA success, I expected Henderson to be able to take him down without much problem. It didn't happen because Silva timed his strikes, overhooks plus drop downs, and sprawls better than he had previously. To make things even more bizarre, in spite of Silva being the best striker in the middleweight division, the fight was most competitive when Henderson was striking with him. Henderson certainly lost more battles than he won, but he did hit Silva with some good punches, including one that gave Silva a mouse and cut around his eye brow, and forced Silva to respect his standup.Although Silva made some questionable decisions like allowing the fight to take place from Henderson's guard on more than one occasion, Silva was almost always in control. His biggest advantage was when he was standing up and Henderson was lying on his back because Henderson didn't have the skills to prevent Silva from taking virtually free kicks at his thighs.

There was some real hypocrisy here because Silva wouldn't let Henderson up, but a couple times the ref got sick of this position where the same thing happened over and over so he ordered a restart. I can see calling it a stalemate when one guy is on top throwing pawing Severn punches, but I'm sure Henderson was welting up. Henderson's stamina didn't seem as good here. He seemed to punch himself out trying to flurry the one time when he was able to take Silva down. The damage Silva was doing with his strikes certainly had an effect on Henderson as well, taking some of the zip off his takedown attempts.

Near the end of the first round, Silva tried to stomp on Henderson's head, which didn't work, but he was so high up that he was able to mount Henderson instead of going down and winding up in his guard like the other times. I don't know why he didn't try to flurry here, especially since the first round was nearly over. Instead, he gave up the mount to get up and stomp on Henderson's face twice. This was very effective, but a much lower percentage move and not something that's going to win you the match right there (it would if you could do it repeatedly, but when has that ever happened?). Due mainly to these stomps, Henderson did look pretty out of it in his corner between rounds though.

The thing with this match is that, aside from standup, the same positions kept bringing the same results. If they fought all night, Silva would have eventually at least TKO'd Henderson. However, since he could never get his famous knees going, it didn't seem like there was going to be a KO and it did seem like we were seeing the same thing we'd seen before. That said, it was good up until the last few minutes when both men were tired and Silva pretty much shut down, just taking the free paws to the ribs until time ran out even though he had the mount. Henderson can take solace in hanging with Silva in standup, but it had to be frustrating for him that he was almost never in a position where he could be successful offensively without the threat of Silva being more successful. 2R

Kazuyuki Fujita vs. Gilbert Yvel

Fujita has to be the luckiest fighter on the planet. He beat Kerr and Shamrock when their bodies had a major malfunction and now he beat Yvel by lying on him for 20 minutes. This was Randy Couture vs. Maurice Smith 12/21/97 except 10 times more ridiculous and boring. In the previous match, even though there was at least 20 times the action, there was seemingly a half dozen standups and even a double yellow card for stalling. Here Fujita barely did anything more than lay on top of Yvel, yet he was never warned and there was only one standup. It was such shady home town officiating.

Yvel's defense against the takedowns was actually better, as Fujita only had one nice takedown and that was basically because he's a specimen since Yvel was sprawling and Fujita just used his strength to stop him cold and bodyslam him. The couple other takedowns weren't quick or clean, but since Yvel gives up so much weight and power, he eventually wound up on his back.

Yvel's mistake was not trying to strike from his back because that made it seem like he was getting dominated when in truth he walked out of the ring almost totally unscathed and made Fujita burn so much more energy by fighting the takedowns and those "deadly" arm bars. Fujita went for these arm bar three or possibly four times, but anyone but the announcers and judges could see that Yvel was totally calm and not really in trouble. Fujita also occasionally threw a useless punch. Quadros "coined the phrase lay and pray" to describe Fujita's "offense". The one time they did stand them up, about 5 1/2 minutes into round 2, Yvel exploded with two powerful knees, but Fujita caught the 2nd one against his face, took Yvel down, and laid on him for the rest of regulation. The match was 1 good takedown and a few "near" submissions against two good knees, yet all three judges thought Fujita did enough to win both rounds. Thus, there was no extension. Yvel was totally fresh, but since the ref readily allowed 20 minutes of non-action, he never had the chance to make the "comeback". One of the worst and most annoying matches in PRIDE history. 2R

Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Mark Kerr

Even though this was the semifinal and could not have been more boring than Fujita napping on Yvel, they skipped the first round. This fight was somewhat similar to the previous fight, but both men were striking while Igor had Kerr in his guard and they weren't stuck in this position for the entire fight. It got interesting after a standup 5 minutes into the round, as Igor backed Kerr into the corner with strikes, landing a nice kick to Kerr's head as Kerr was getting into position to shoot. Igor sprawled away from Kerr's subsequent takedown, leaving Kerr prone on all fours. Since kneeing from that position is illegal, Igor quickly took Kerr's back and started punching him. Kerr, who over the last year has seemingly switched roles with Coleman as the great wrestler with no tank, used a lot of his remaining energy trying for an arm bar Igor let Kerr up, which wasn't a bad move since he wasn't having much success holding Kerr from behind and punching him. However, it didn't work out because Kerr ducked his punch and took him down. Again, Igor was more active striking from his back, but suddenly Kerr passed the guard and got side mount. Kerr was too tired to get his knees or anything else going, so this basically just stopped Igor's activity.

Extending this match seemed like the right thing to do because Kerr got the takedowns, but Igor did more damage even though he was on his back most of the time. In overtime, Kerr tried to come out with a punch, but Igor avoided it and hurt Kerr with two rights, cutting Kerr in the process. With Kerr on his knees, Igor once again got behind him and started punching. This time he got some decent shots in because Kerr was a little stunned and a lot tired. Although this isn't a great position for leverage, Igor's got those "heavy fists" so he can hurt you from positions that other guys can't. It didn't take that long for Kerr to recover enough to start wrestling, but he was too tired to get out of the bottom position. Kerr saved himself by taking Igor down at 2:10 then lied there trying to recover. He never got his wind back, so the final 2:50 was just Kerr on top doing nothing. Although Kerr had more time "on offense," it was obvious that Igor was going to get the decision because he did something with his time on offense while Kerr didn't even try. This was the second worst fight shown because it only had four or five good minutes. 2R + OT (25:00)

Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Ryan Gracie

Sakuraba's right leg was bandaged from thigh to shin, while Ryan had a strip of blue tape on his injured right shoulder. This was not a superior performance by Sakuraba. He didn't really take Ryan seriously, which you can see from the sense that the other three Gracie's he's defeated are far better, but it was a detriment because Sakuraba was content to take what Ryan gave him, do a few "entertainment" spots, and win a decision.

Ryan was the one that made the fight. He's got some skill, but he's so energetic and aggressive that uncaged and untamed seem like good ways to describe him. I couldn't tell that his shoulder was hampering him at all. Sakuraba never really tested it aside from trying to bar the other arm, which forced Ryan to defend by clasping his hands. Sakuraba used a Misawa facelock, which the crowd really reacted to. What was funny is the announcers acted like Ryan was in real danger. Later on, Ryan attempted a heel hold, only to have Sakuraba start spanking his butt after spinning out of danger. The fans chuckled. Sakuraba controlled most of the fight, and there's no question that he won, but I can't say he did much damage or came close to winning. Ryan started putting his shoulder over like crazy once the match ended, probably because he knew he'd lost and was looking for an excuse to get a rematch.1R

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* MMA Review Copyright 2000 Quebrada *